What is your identity? Who are you? We answer, typically, the following way: - Iam (your first name)
- I am a man/woman
- I am American
- I am married
- I am gay/straight
- I am Christian/Jewish/agnostic/“none”
- I am liberal/ conservative/independent
We label ourselves in so many ways and labels can be used to both understand and divide.
In the gospel, the identity of Jesus is front and center, but it was not the disciples, nor the people in the synagogue, we truly understood jesus’ identity. It was satan. The irony of ironies. Jesus is NOT identified by the evil spirit as a male, Jewish, religious, single but by an identity that is his totality: “the Holy One of God.”
Jesus grew in popularity and fame because of what happened in the synagogue, as well as, the countless healings and compelling teaching. He taught “with authority” because his words and teachings emanated from within his own mind and heart; he wasn’t quoting or referring to another source, the Law or Talmud, for example, but he spoke from the source of the deep well of wisdom, rooted in his relationship with the Father.
Jesus got in trouble, not because he was identified as a miracle worker or exorcist, but because He lived out of a deeper identity: his being the living Son of God the Father. What led Jesus to the Cross was that he identified himself as God.
What comprises our “identity” has many descriptive labels, but the one that unites and equalizes them all is “disciple.” Can you imagine our world and Church if we focused our identity on being a disciple of Jesus? It is much like identifying ourselves as part of the human race, rather than an individual one. Labels are necessary and important when they add richness, color and beauty to our lives. But they can quickly devolve into identity politics and economics when they divide and pit group against group, individual against individual, race against race.
“Labeling” ourselves as “disciple” is beautiful and unifying but it can also be very challenging, and even dangerous. Why? Because like Jesus, when we live out the reality of that identity, our lifestyles will not quite fit into the larger social narrative in which we live. Others will not like our values, how we see economics, standing up for the powerless, the importance of community, justice, our worship of God.
If we are truly living out our IDENTITY as a disciple, we WILL be led to the Cross. It’s much safer and comfortable to FIRST identify as an American, a Democratic, a Republican, etc. In choosing the easy road of mediocrity, we choose futility.